We have no complaints regarding connectivity, which is as up-to-date as we could wish for, and neatly arranged along the side and back. On the right you’ll find headphone and microphone jacks, a memory card reader, handy wireless switch, HDMI port, USB 3.0 port in its signature blue, a combined eSATA/USB 2.0 port and VGA output. Around the laptop’s rear are a further two USB 2.0 ports and Gigabit Ethernet port, while on the wireless front both Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 2.1 are accounted for.
Unfortunately, the keyboard earns the N73Jn its first usability black mark. With the exception of the ergonomically accomplished G73, keyboards tend to be a weak spot in Asus laptops (as aptly demonstrated by the K52JC) and the N73Jn is no exception. Aside from a little more flex than we like to find on a premium laptop, keys feel loose and rattle far too much. It’s a real pity as layout is excellent and feedback not too shallow. Though it’s usable, this is far from being our favourite recent typing experience.
Thankfully there’s no such problem with the flush media controls found to the left of the keyboard. They are well-spaced and offer a crisp response. A nice additional touch, these light up when pressed, but unfortunately the backlighting doesn’t extend to the keyboard itself.
The touchpad is a pleasure to use. Naturally multi-touch is supported, and its large, smooth surface makes gestures easy. Though integrated into a single chromed rocker switch, the buttons offer a positive click and its dead zone is minimal.
The Bang & Olufsen co-developed ICEpower (we have no idea what the frozen water reference is about either) speakers are a key selling point of the N73JN – but are they everything they’re hyped up to be? Well, to be honest we were a little disappointed. Their maximum volume is prodigious but the laptop suffers from serious distortion, and even turning things down to medium didn’t completely eliminate this.
This complaint aside, there’s a good level of detail and clarity on hand at the high-end, and whenever distortion didn’t kick in we could appreciate the N73JN’s punchy bass. However, we’ve heard better from laptops this size – the HP Envy 17 3D, MSI GT680 and Dell XPS 17 the most recent examples.
Unfortunately, this premium laptop’s 17.3in screen doesn’t rise above rival offerings either. We can live with the reflective screen coating and 1,600 x 900 resolution, as Full HD offerings are few and far between. However, having been spoiled by some half-way decent TN panels recently, certain aspects are underwhelming. For example, despite favouring the dark end of the scale, the N73Jn’s screen couldn’t distinguish between the three darkest shades, meaning you’ll miss out on subtle black detail in many films and games. Horizontal viewing angles suffer from more contrast shift than we’re used to and are generally rather poor, and common artefacts like banding were visible, if minor.
On the other hand, backlighting is even with no sign of light bleed, colours are reasonably realistic and sharpness is good. Overall it’s certainly not the worst we’ve come across, but for a premium product we expect far better.